Brewerytown Historic District
|Location||Roughly bounded by 30th St., Girard Ave., 32nd St. and Glenwood Ave., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania|
|Area||34.8 acres (14.1 ha)|
|Architect||William Decker et al.|
|Architectural style||Queen Anne, Other, Romanesque|
|NRHP Reference #||91000096|
|Added to NRHP||March 1, 1991|
Brewerytown is a neighborhood in the North Philadelphia district of the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. An unofficial region, Brewerytown runs approximately between the Schuylkill River's eastern bank and 25th Street, bounded by Cecil B. Moore Avenue to the north and Parrish Street to the south. Brewerytown got its name because of the numerous breweries that were located along the Schuylkill during the late 19th century and early 20th century. It is now primarily a residential neighborhood, with an active commercial sector along Girard Avenue.
The earliest indications of this legacy can be seen on maps from the 1860s, which list several minor brewers and distillation facilities in this region. Proximity to the river and nearby farmland allowed these establishments to flourish, and as demands increased, so did development in Brewerytown. Much of the expansion into the early 20th century was handled by architect Otto Wolf, who oversaw the construction of over 60 buildings in the area, bringing a distinct German texture to the houses, saloons, and breweries of the area. Some of his buildings are still standing, including the Bergdoll Brewing complex, and F.A. Poth Brewing. Columbia Park, former home of the Philadelphia Athletics major league baseball team, was located at 30th and Oxford Streets in the neighborhood.
At its peak, 700 breweries operated across Philadelphia, several in a ten-block area of Brewerytown. Unfortunately, with the collapse of local industry later in the 20th century, originally started by the implementation of Prohibition in the United States, and beer production moving primarily to the Midwest, every single brewer had vanished by 1987. The industry has slowly returned to the city, but at nowhere near the capacity of its heyday. Ironically, there are currently no operating breweries in Brewerytown. During this late 20th-century slump, the entirety of North Philadelphia, Brewerytown included, was hit hard by economic depression, white flight and a myriad of other factors. Much of the area was deemed blighted by the city government. For the last few decades until recently, Brewerytown has been a predominantly poor, African-American neighborhood.
In 1991, the Brewerytown Historic District was certified by the National Register of Historic Places. The district contains 380 buildings and is roughly bounded by 30th St., Girard Ave., 32nd St. and Glenwood Ave.
Breweries that operated in the neighborhood included:
- Bergner & Engel Brewing Company (Thompson Street between 32nd and 33rd, east side)
- Charles Eisner Brewery (Thompson Street between 32nd and 33rd, west side)
- F. A. Poth Brewing Company (31st & Jefferson Streets, NW corner)
- H. Mueller Centennial Brewery (31st & Jefferson Streets, NE corner)
- J. & P. Baltz Brewing Company (31st & Thompson Streets)
- Arnholt & Schaefer Brewing Company (31st and Thompson Streets, NE corner)
- G. Keller's Brewery (31st Street, west side, between Jefferson and Master)
- J. Bentz' Brewery (31st Street, west side, between Jefferson and Master)
- Thomas Perot Brewery (31st and Master Streets, NW corner)
- W. S. Perot (32nd and Thompson Streets, NW corner)
- Goldbeck & Eisele (31st and Thompson Streets, NE corner)
- Geo. F. Rothacker Brewery (31st Street, West side, between Thompson and Master)
- Eble & Herter (33rd Street and Pennsylvania Avenue)
- Francis Orth (later Burg & Pfaender, later Bergdoll Brewery; 33rd Street, south of Master Street)
- Henzler & Flach Brewery
- City Park Brewery (29th and Parrish Streets)
- Commonwealth Brewing Company (28th and Cambridge Streets)
- Keystone State Brewery (27th and Parrish Streets)
- Peter Schemm and Son (West College Ave. and Poplar Street)
- India Pale Ale Brewery (38th Street and Girard Avenue)
- M. Gosse (27th & Thompson Streets)
Recently, Brewerytown has seen a trend of gentrification. The Girard Avenue commercial corridor has seen new businesses move in and property values increase, along with increases in property values in other sections of the city associated with the influx of young professionals to Center City.
In 2004 The Westrum Development Company announced a multi-million-dollar real-estate project known as Brewerytown Square, which is to create hundreds of housing units aimed at middle class buyers. The project is opposed by the community group AABRA, or African-American Business & Residents Association, which is led by Al Alston. This group claims that Westrum is attempting to drive out long-time, lower-income residents in favor of wealthy, young urban professionals, by driving up property values. AABRA is engaged in a lawsuit with the city of Philadelphia over Brewerytown land rights. Despite the ongoing legal proceedings, the first Westrum housing units are already for sale. AABRA has threatened to create an alternative development called "Songhai City" (in reference to the Songhai Empire), a proposed mecca for black culture. In August 2006, AABRA leader Alston overturned a city government decision that deemed the proposed Songhai City property blighted. The location, a dilapidated garage, was set to be acquired by Westrum Development, razed, and rebuilt as townhouses in accordance with the developers' massive reconstruction efforts in the neighborhood. The decision, a surprise to Westrum, who had considered the matter settled, will now force the developer to build around the property, which sits close to what will become the heart of Brewerytown Square. Alston has reopened the garage as a community center, catering to the older, poorer Brewerytown community. Little compromise has been reached, and the Westrum development continues to be a source of contention between the residents of Brewerytown, new and old.
On October 30, Farm Fresh Produce and Poultry announced that they were purchasing land at Girard Avenue and North 31st Street from Westrum Development Company, with the intent to create a 35,000-square-foot (3,300 m2) supermarket, according to an article in the Home News.
The local civic association is called Brewerytown-Sharswood Community Civic Association. It covers the Brewerytown and Sharswood neighborhoods and its boundaries are 33rd St. on the west, to Ridge Ave on the east, Girard Ave to the south and Cecil B Moore Ave to the north. Public meetings are every third Thursday of the month, except during the summer break, at the Daniel Boone School at 26th and Jefferson. Meetings start at 6:30 p.m.
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2007-01-23.
- Thomas, George E. (1990). "Brewerytown" (PDF). National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. Retrieved January 7, 2014.
- "Brewerytown" (PDF). National Register of Historic Places Inventory Form. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. 1990. Retrieved January 7, 2014.
- Central Brewerytown Blight Recertification, City Planning Commission, 2005
- African-American Business & Residents Association
- Video Tour of Brewerytown
- Historic Photographs of Brewerytown, PhillyHistory.org